Most people are familiar with the white linen strapped bodies called mummies. This fashion for the dead is part of an ancient Egyptian method of burial which was a complicated method of preserving the body after death; so complicated that it took up to 70 days to complete.
Alkaline Hydrolysis / Resomation
A more modern and ecologically friendly process compared to cremation, this disposal process turns the body into a white colored dust after it has been loaded into a Resomator. This machine enables the transformation of the remains by using water and lye and heating the mixture to about 320°F and applying high pressure. This process has been favored by environment friendly groups because it uses less energy and releases less carbon dioxide.
Derived from the Italian word for “promise” (promessa), Promession is another environmentally friendly and modern way of disposing human remains and was invented by the Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak. The process involves freeze-drying the body (making it bridle), shattering the body into dust, vacuum drying the dust, and releasing the dust into top soil, thus creating compost within 12 months. This innovative method has been recognized by the King of Sweden with an award and has caught the interest of more than 60 countries worldwide.
Neanderthal Cave Burials
Within the Shanidar Cave in Iraq, ten adult neanderthal skeletons were discovered. Two of the first four skeletons discovered showed evidence of burial rituals. The 2nd skeleton had a pile of stones on top of his grave and the remains of a large fire near the burial site. The 4th skeleton was found lying on his left side in a partial fetal position and had pollen grains around where he was buried.
Human DNA Trees
How would you like to have an apple tree which has been genetically modified to carry strands of your DNA? Biopresence, a company formed by Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel in collaboration with scientist and artist Joe Davis, was set up to create “Living Memorials” or “Transgenic Tombstones” by transcoding the essence of the human being within the DNA of a tree without affecting the genes of the resulting tree.
There are many creative ways to spread someone’s ashes, but this method takes the cake. Not only does it spread the ashes far and wide, it does it with an impressive display. A firework funeral places the ashes of the deceased inside the firework tube which is then launched high into the sky, exploding in a brilliant display of lights and colors while releasing the ashes of the deceased to be carried by high winds.
Most families store the ashes of their loved ones in an urn which they proudly display in the living room or some other prominent place. However, if you really want to show off your loved one, how about mixing the ashes with paint and turning it into art? Indeed, some have resorted to this method to honor their loved ones as more than just ashes, but it doesn’t stop with paint; loved ones can also be used to create glass sculptures, pieces of jewelry, and much more.
For those who love the sea, getting buried within a coral reef may be an interesting burial option. Well, it’s not the actual remains that are submerged in the water; rather, it’s the cremation ashes which are mixed with cement to form interesting features of the reef. One known underwater mausoleum or cremation memorial site is Neptune Memorial Reef that’s also the world’s largest man-made reef located 3.25 miles (5.2 km) off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida.
From the Greek word kryos meaning icy cold, this process is the low temperature preservation of humans and animals. If you’ve watched some of the sci-fi or superhero flicks roaming around, then you may be familiar with this method already. Most people undergo cryopreservation in hopes that future technology will be able to bring them back to life and back to health. However, this hope comes at a price of anywhere between $80,000 to $250,000 dollars.
Viking Ship Burials
Port an Eilean Mhòir is the only Viking burial discovered in mainland Britain so far. The mound was discovered in 2006 and excavation started in 2011. The boat was used either as a coffin for the dead and the grave goods (which sometimes included a slave girl) or as part of the grave goods themselves.
Bog bodies are human cadavers that have been naturally mummified within a peat bog. The actual levels of preservation vary widely from perfectly preserved to mere skeletons. The mummification is accomplished due to the conditions of the surrounding area such as highly acidic water, low temperature, and a lack of oxygen. These conditions combine to preserve (and severely tan) the bodies, however bones are normally not preserved due to the acid in the peat which dissolves the calcium phosphate of the bones.
This is also known as the Ngaben, a cremation ceremony performed in Bali, a province in Indonesia. The deceased is treated as if sleeping, thus family members avoid crying since they believe the deceased will reincarnate or find his final resting place in the Moksha. The body is then transferred in a coffin on the day of the ceremony and placed in a sarcophagus resembling a bull where it is burnt.
Burial in an old town in Bulgaria
A recent archaeological dig has uncovered a very unusual sight; residents of a town in Bulgaria were cut in half and buried from the pelvis up. It is unclear as to why this ritual occurred seeing as some of the corpses found on this dig were preserved fully intact.
Found in different locations like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, these hanging coffins (also known as Xuanguan) are attached to the sides of cliffs as part of an ancient funeral custom of minority groups. These hanging coffins come in three types: Some are cantilevered out on wooden stakes, others are placed in caves, while the third kind sit on projections in the rock. All three forms can be found in Gongxian, where most of China’s hanging coffins are located.
The desire to go to outer space has risen in the past few decades, so it’s not surprising that individuals would also want to be buried in space. Space burial is carried out by launching a small capsule into space, containing a sample of the ashes of the deceased. Several notable scientists, astronomers, and even the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, have been buried in space. The farthest burial was outside the solar system with the remains of Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto.
Burial scaffolds, as it is sometimes called, are normally trees or at times other structures which are used to support corpses or coffins. These were common among the Balinese, certain Australian Aborigines, the Naga people, and some North American Indian groups. Particularly the Tibetans believe tree burial allows the dead child’s spirit to be reborn to heaven, and prevents another child’s death or misfortune in the family.
Similar to cremation art, memorial diamonds are created from the hair or cremated remains of the deceased. If using hair, the samples are subjected to a process were carbon is extracted. When the cremated remains are used, carbon is obtained in a gaseous form. Carbon from both sources is turned into diamonds through conventional diamond synthesis techniques.
Tibetan Sky Burial
Sky burial is a practice in Tibet where the deceased are incised in a certain location and then left exposed to the elements. Since the majority of Tibetans adhere to Buddhist beliefs, they see the body as an empty vessel that will eventually be reborn.
Aboriginal Body Exposure
Like in the North American Indian culture, corpses are placed on wooden scaffolds so that they will be exposed to the natural elements and gradually rot and disintegrate. This ritual has two main stages: First, they leave the corpse on a raised platform and cover it with leaves and branches until the flesh has rotted away. The second stage occurs after all the flesh has rotten and only bones are left. The bones are painted red okra and left to disintegrate.
Plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. It was first developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977. To achieve this preservation, the water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched; do not smell or decay; and even retain most properties of the original sample.
Ifugao Death Chair (Front Porch Burial)
The Ifugao Death Chair is a form of mourning the deceased by the Ifugao people which is dependent on the rank of the deceased in the community and the nature of death. As part of the elaborate mourning ritual; the corpse is placed in the sitting position in a specified chair for anywhere between 13 to 15 days for those of a higher rank and 2 to 3 days for commoners. After the wake, the remains are then transferred to the grave site near the mountainside and are placed in an upright sitting position inside and covered with stones and rocks.
Towers of Silence
In Zoroastrian tradition, corpses are placed on a circular raised structure, known as dakhma or “Cheel Gar.” The term “Towers of Silence” is actually a neologism attributed to the translator of the British colonial government in India named Robert Murphy. The roof of the structure is divided into three rings where the men are arranged on the outer ring, the women in the second circle and children in the innermost. When the corpses have turned into sun bleached bones after a year, they are collected and placed in an ossuary pit where they are mixed with lime and gradually disintegrated.
In ancient times, some Native American and Indian cultures practiced endocannibalism, which is the practice of eating the flesh of a human being from the same community. As shocking as it may sound, this practice was once common around the world. A fact that was substantiated by the Studies of lead investigator Michael Alpers, who discovered that genes that protect against prion diseases (which was spread via endocannibalism) were widespread around the world, indicating that such endocannibalism was once indeed common.
Suttee (Self Immolation)
Suttee, also known as Sati, is a social funeral practice where the wife of the deceased would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. It’s derived from the original name of the goddess Sati or Dakshayani who also did the same. There are measures to stop gender-biased and unfair practices even if some view it as reasonable and a glorification towards the dead women. However, the practice is still sadly practiced on some rare occasions in India, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
The Sokushinbutsu were Buddhist monks or priests who went through a stringent and lengthy process of causing their own deaths, resulting into mummifying themselves. Taking place in some parts of Japan, only 24 of such incidences have been discovered to date. This belief establishes that if the process was successful, then the monk was immediately seen as a Buddha and placed in the temple for viewing. The practice is no longer advocated by any of the Buddhist sects and has been banned in Japan.